Resolving Conflicts Ignited by COVID-19 in Karamoja

Speeches Shim

Friday, May 15, 2020
Meeting with community members in Karamoja

In Karamoja, a region of historic tribal conflicts in Eastern Uganda, the COVID-19 pandemic has ignited new tensions between the local communities and miners from other locations. Rich in minerals, including copper, cobalt and gold, Karamoja is a prime mining location. 

Over the past two years, approximately 250 miners have been mining and trading peacefully with the community in Rupa, in the Moroto district of Karamoja. But in March 2020, with the arrival of the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19), the miners—Ugandans from other communities and non-Ugandans from the neighboring countries—were told to stop work and close the mines to comply with the president’s order to close all public activities. Fearing the spread of the virus, the local community accused the miners of hosting relatives and outside visitors. As the situation escalated, miners were forcefully evicted from their properties and their shops, livestock, and personal belongings looted. 

To prevent the situation from becoming worse, in mid-April, USAID’s Securing Peace and Promoting Prosperity in Karamoja activity, EKISIL in the local language, took action. Together with the Women Forum Members supported by EKISIL and the District COVID-19 Task Force, they intervened as mediators between the host communities and miners, all while observing social distancing rules. The team amicably sensitized the community and their leaders on how to mitigate the risk of COVID-19, emphasizing the benefits of peace, and negotiated with the community to allow the return of the miners, accepting them back into the community. The miners were also advised against welcoming visitors to reduce the risk of spreading the virus to their community. As a result of the successful mediation, about 200 miners and their families have now settled back into the area.  

EKISIL and its local partners have continued to monitor the relationship between the miners and the local community, and also have provided health screenings. EKISIL has kept conflict resolution on the agenda and is ensuring that all the District Task Forces in Karamoja integrate conflict resolution and peace building in their response to COVID-19.